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Google Launches Major Offensive Against Fake News

Google announced its first attempt to combat the circulation of “fake news” on its search engine with new tools for users to report misleading or offensive content and a pledge to improve results generated by its algorithm.

The technology giant said it would allow people to complain about misleading, inaccurate or hateful content in its autocomplete function, which pops up to suggest searches based on the first few characters typed.

It also said it would refine its search engine to “surface more authoritative pages and demote low-quality content” — and acknowledged for the first time that it had taken the measures to combat the threat of fake news.

Ben Gomes, vice-president of engineering, Google Search, said in a blogpost: “In a world where tens of thousands of pages are coming online every minute of every day, there are new ways that people try to game the system,” he said.

“The most high profile of these issues is the phenomenon of ‘fake news,’ where content on the web has contributed to the spread of blatantly misleading, low quality, offensive or downright false information.”

The executive added that the user feedback mechanisms were designed to “include clearly labelled categories so you can inform us directly if you find sensitive or unhelpful content.” Results would allow Google to change the way pages are ranked in search results.

Regarding the changes to its search algorithm, Gomes added: “We’ve adjusted our signals to help surface more authoritative pages and demote low-quality content,… so that issues similar to the Holocaust denial results that we saw back in December are less likely to appear.” The news of the prominence of Holocaust denial in Google searches was first revealed by the Observer.

Google also promised to open up over how it makes such decisions in the future, although there remained criticism over its lack of…

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